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What: Philosophy Discussion Group

When: 1st Saturday of each month, from 2pm – 5pm
(3 hours, including a break)

Where: Justin & Tammy's house in Richardson [*BYOD&S]

How: Readings discussed in-depth amongst the group. No tests, no lecture… we help teach each other in a spirit of learning.

We will usually be reading from a book one will have to purchase, but sometimes there will be articles provided online.

Meeting Topic & Reading List

This month we will demonstrate what some members have done with their robots as well as cover some topics related to connectionism.

Our readings will come from the textbook which can be purchased from the following link:

http://www.amazon.com/Mindware-Introduction-Philosophy-Cognitive-Science/dp/0195138570/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1366393596&sr=1-5&keywords=andy+clark

Readings for July:

* Re-read Mindware chapters 3-4 (We read these last month, but people will be demonstrating their robots involving this so it'll be good to still have this in mind for that discussion)

* Braitenberg (available here (http://www.justin-fisher.com/readings/fofd/Braitenberg--Vehicles-1-6.pdf), login as philclub, password is the street we'll be meeting on, single word all lowercase; this will give you a sense of how the robots are working)

* Ramsey, Stich & Garon (available here (http://www.stanford.edu/~paulsko/papers/RSG.pdf); argue that connectionism leads to eliminativism)

* Chalmers (available here (http://consc.net/papers/f-and-p.pdf); defends connectionism against classic arguments by Jerry Fodor and colleagues)

- (optional) Fodor & Pylyshyn (available here (http://ruccs.rutgers.edu/ftp/pub/papers/jaf.pdf); this is one of the classic Fodor papers Chalmers is arguing against)

- (optional) Elman et al (available here (http://www.justin-fisher.com/readings/fofd/Elman-et-al--Rethinking-Innateness-Chapter-2.pdf); again login as philclub and streetname as password; a nice detailed introduction to connectionist networks and how they can be used to model language processing)

Meeting Format

10 minute introduction to the material Depending on attendence, we may split into smaller groups (4 - 8 people) 2 part group discussion of readings with a 10 minute break in between Reconvene into large group to share highlights of small group discussions

Expectations

Readings are not neccessarily required, but we ask that you please stay on topic during the discussion. We are teaching each other in a "spirit of learning": we should be humble (we do not know everything), eager to learn, and willing to challenge each other while being kind and considerate. There will be people of various backgrounds in philosophy — you do not need to be an expert in philosophy to be in the group (e.g. I'm not; Justin is). If a topic is new to you, here are some good resources, if you are interested:
- Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia)
- Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (http://plato.stanford.edu/)
- Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (http://www.iep.utm.edu/)
- The Oxford Companion to Philosophy (http://amazon.com/o/ASIN/0199264791/ref=nosim/fellooffreetd-20)

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[*BYOD&S] "Bring Your Own Drink & Snack". You might get thirsty or hungry — feel free to bring whatever (non-alcoholic) drinks and snacks you'd like (preferably something shareable with the group).
— A note to those with cat-related allergies: Justin and Tammy have cats — one of whom will be rather happy to mingle with all the nice people who came to see him....
>^. . ^<

In a post on Common Sense Atheism, "How to Do Philosophy Better" (http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=13378), Luke Muehlhauser summarizes an essay by Paul Graham (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Graham_(computer_programmer)). In that essay, Graham proposes the following:

Here's an intriguing possibility. Perhaps we should do what Aristotle meant to do, instead of what he did. The goal he announces in the Metaphysics seems one worth pursuing: to discover the most general truths. That sounds good. But instead of trying to discover them because they're useless, let's try to discover them because they're useful. — Paul Graham, "How to Do Philosophy" (http://www.paulgraham.com/philosophy.html)

Given a lot of our common values, I think we can study philosophy in a way that helps us, that is useful to us, rather than as something that is considerably esoteric or futile.